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Windows 8 isn't New Coke, says top Microsoft exec; it's Diet Coke

Gregg Keizer | May 16, 2013
Frank X. Shaw defends Windows disclosure strategy, denies aping Apple.

"But I think that's a hard comparison to make," Shaw continued, speaking of the contrast between Windows 8 secrets and pre-Windows 7 openness. "Windows 8 represented a significant platform shift, with touch, Windows available on ARM as well as Intel, a new app model and a new store, and a new set of hardware from us."

In many cases, Microsoft has taken to parceling out information in small bits, a drip-drip-drip strategy that, to outsiders at least, seems to serve little purpose. The best illustration was when the company announced last week that it would release a public preview of Windows 8.1 at its BUILD conference in late June, but said it would provide other information, including pricing, "in a few weeks." Just seven days later, however, Tami Reller, CFO of the Windows division, said that update would be free.

When asked why Microsoft didn't simply give customers both pieces at the same time, Shaw did not directly answer. Instead, he said, "There are many options, and this was the one that we chose. We thought that it was the best way to get the information out."

Microsoft has made other communication missteps recently. Earlier this year, when news broke that it was permanently tying each retail Office 2013 license to the first PC it was installed on, and would not allow users to later move that license to another machine, the company limited the disclosure to the end-user licensing agreement (EULA), which very few people read, then only confirmed the move after several rounds of questions from Computerworld. In March, after a heated reaction from users, Microsoft backtracked from the licensing lock-in.

"There's a big continuum," Shaw said. "At times we are unbelievably transparent, at times we are moderately transparent, and at times we are quiet. What drives this is not a corporate one-size-fits-all strategy, but the demands of the product or service, and the marketplace."

Shaw also took exception to the point many have made that developers were not kept as informed about Windows 8 as in past iterations of the OS, and that what they did get was much later in the development cycle than in the past. That contributed to the Windows Store's app tally and the omission, still, of some major apps, such as one dedicated to Facebook, the theory goes.

"We did tons of work with developers and ISVs to get them ready and to train them," said Shaw, citing the 2011 BUILD conference and follow-on efforts. "The thing that people have to recognize is that until Windows 8 shipped, there were zero targeted devices."

And sans those devices, implied Shaw, it was no surprise that at launch the app store had relatively few apps. "Developers are rational creatures," he said, hinting that until they had hardware they could use to test their apps, they took a wait-and-see stance. "We had realistic expectations of what [the app store] would look like at launch. There was never a 'work-done' moment for us related to the launch."


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